I have been dreading this day for months.
No words can describe the sense of emptiness and the feeling of being cheated, with empty arms on the day I should have met you and held you. It’s that day–and nothing happened.
2016 is coming to an end and there is no baby in my arms. It’s unfathomable, unfair, and devastating. Death is not natural. It’s not supposed to feel right. I’m not supposed to feel peace. It is not well with my soul and quite frankly, I don’t think God blames me. Death is the enemy, and he doesn’t deny that. Jesus wept at death and the grief it caused his friends, Mary and Martha. Nobody can tell me he doesn’t weep over the grief yours caused me too; over the unnaturalness of not holding my baby on the day I was supposed to.
Rowan, I will not get to meet you today. But I will one day. I will not get to see your smile, your first words, your first report card, your first drawing, your first laugh, your first car, your first friends, your first child. I will never see those things on earth that I, as your mother, should have. Death won. I am defeated by it and bear its weight. It settles over the house in the form of your empty nursery and the lack of your cries. It settles over my body in the emptiness of my arms and my chest. It settles over my marriage in the lonely day we spend together, shouldering the weight of what would have been ours. It settles over my soul in the darkness of feeling defeated and devastated by its clutches.
But it has not escaped my notice that your due date comes after Christmas. I have been completely unable to focus on Christmas in any way other than being physically present to move through the motions of it. I cannot focus on my mind and heart on the point of it, or my spirit on the message of it. Yet I know it so well as the backbone of my faith that it sinks into my subconscious anyway. How dare this sacred holiday be tainted by death? And yet the Christmas story itself was tainted by death–I weep with the mothers of Bethlehem whose babies were murdered by a cowardly king. And yet literarily, what a foil. The earthly king feared the gospel message and his response was violence and death. In the meantime, life prevailed in a manger despite him, bringing with it the power to defeat death once and for all. The contrast is intentional. It does not escape my notice.
And yet how I groan as the world does with the weight of death still lingering as the last enemy has yet to be defeated. The earth is full of it just as it is full of sin and evil, waiting until the final judgment. You, my sweet child, escaped all of that and you will never feel what I am feeling now.
Nor has it escaped my notice that your sister reached her viability milestone yesterday. She is now at the point where she would most likely survive outside the womb, and doctors would fight to save her. One day before your due date. Nor has it escaped my notice that in the days leading up to your due date, her kicks have become so strong they hurt.
All of this comforts my mind and soothes my heart. But my arms and my soul remain at a loss. I don’t know what words to use to describe this state of lack. I am missing a child. I just am. There’s nothing good or redemptive in that. And God stands with me and feels it too.
It has changed everything. I have had my innocence destroyed. There have been small moments of excitement in my journey with your sister that have bolstered me thus far, but overall I have had no glow of expectation, no moments of quiet joy or bonding with her. I find it impossible to allow myself to expect to meet her. As much as I speak of her arrival, I don’t believe it. I will begin the motions of preparing for her as the year turns, but emotionally I have not bonded with her to the extent that I would have wanted–because I am afraid of feeling for her the intensity of the love I have for you. It’s all in there, bottled up and ready for later, but impossible to touch upon now. I hate it, for her sake. She deserves all my love and my joy. But it is normal to struggle with this, and I give myself grace, knowing that one day it will be easier. One day, God willing, I will be allowed to feel all of that love and joy.
So far, Rowan, every day of my pregnancy with her has been a day that should have belonged to you. But from this day forward, we go on without you, and I think it will bring me some closure, some chance to make this pregnancy hers alone.
This year has been the worst of my life in a dozen small and large ways. I cannot wait for it to end. I close this horrible year with your due date and will leave both behind me, hoping that the next year will be very different indeed. Many have suffered his year. I will likely suffer a great deal more in my life. That is the nature of our existence. But symbolically, I am glad to have reached this day. It stings with the pain I expected it would. Yet it is altered not only by time but also by the new child within me and the hope she brings.
My dear Rowan, my beloved first child, I will never, ever forget you. You are my first, my love, my heart, my soul. You made me a mother and I hope it makes me a better mother to your sister. I hope the loss of you makes me more fully aware of the hurts of the world under the weight of sin and death, that I might be a better wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, coworker, and woman of influence. But for now, in the smallness of a normal Tuesday, on which most of the world moves forward (though five or six remember you by name, and your due date, and honor you by mentioning you to me), I am alone and empty, desperately missing what should have been mine today. I’m overwhelmed with the normalcy of the day, longing for there to be some way for the world to acknowledge you, other than in the memory of a select few who surround us with prayer today. But there is no reception of you in the world, because you are not and will never be in it. As your mother, it is unfathomable to me. But it is my truth.
The sun is shining today. It would have been a beautiful day to meet you.
But dear Rowan–I will meet you in heaven instead of today. I love you. I wish I could tell you that from my lips to your little ears. But for now, feel all my love in the wordless longing I have for you today.
Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen, Part Fifteen, Part Sixteen, Part Seventeen, Part Eighteen Part Nineteen, Part Twenty, Part Twenty-One.